In his 1835 novel Le Pere Goriot (“Father Goriot”), author Honore de Balzac creates the shady character Vautrin, who advises young, penniless noble Eugene de Rastignac to give up his hopes of escaping his poverty by studying law in Paris. Instead, he advises that he marry an heiress because he could not, no matter how successful he was as a lawyer, earn enough to escape his poverty at that time in France.

Thomas Piketty, a professor at the Paris School of Economics, recites that lesson, the economic calculations of Jane Austen’s characters in Sense and Sensibility, the philosophies of Karl Marx in Das Kapital and The Communist Manifesto  -- among many, many other sources -- in his book Capital in the Twenty-First Century.

Piketty researched his book for 15 years, and the book reads more like an economics textbook or a doctoral dissertation. The prose could be the professor’s own technical, wordy writing style or a clunky translation from the French. The book’s 685 pages are composed of a 40-page introduction; 91 pages of notes; pages detailing the book’s contents (including a list of graphs that appear on what it seems to be every page); and an index.

So expect a challenging read and not your typical summer beach-reading fare.

However, the book is probably worth the effort. It has stimulated much debate, which Piketty had hoped for. It remains a bestseller since its release on March 10.

The Root Of All Evil?

For the first 470 pages, Piketty outlines the history of capital, its uses, misuses and the several times wealth was overly concentrated among the wealthy. Piketty considers this dangerous to the economies of nations and the world. The several times in history when the extremely wealthy controlled most of the wealth were corrected either by world wars, revolutions and a Great Depression.

Piketty also blames the unequal distribution of wealth as a contributing factor in the Great Recession and its lackluster recovery.

Piketty does gives an indirect plug to financial advisors, saying that with their help, the wealthy doubled their returns on investment to 6 percent to 7 percent from the 2 to 3 percent return people received who do not use a financial advisor.

First « 1 2 » Next